Clinicians at East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust are using artificial intelligence (AI) software to help check chest X-rays for patients in its emergency departments.
The qXR software, developed by Qure.ai, can spot potential issues almost instantly and alert doctors, reducing any potential delay to starting treatment.
And it means issues such as cancer, collapsed lungs, and tuberculosis can potentially be detected more quickly, without having to wait for a radiologist or expert reporting radiographer to review the images.
Dr Neelan Das, consultant interventional radiologist and AI lead for the trust, said there were clear benefits for patients and emergency department staff at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital in Margate.
He added: “We are very excited about this new imaging innovation which we think will make a real difference to the departments.
“The technology allows for faster interpretation and targeted reporting of the images so that any abnormalities can be flagged immediately for the doctor to review.
“Our initial testing has shown that it is at least as sensitive as a senior radiologist and when it is rolled out fully across our emergency departments it could analyse thousands of X-rays every month.”
It is the latest AI project brought in by the trust, which has already used other software to help monitor patients’ eye health and detect signs of disease, detect evidence of stroke, and analyse potential lung cancers on CT scans as part of the new national lung cancer screening programme.
East Kent Hospitals is part of the National Institute for Health and Care Research’s AI Centre consortium – a group of 16 organisations working on ways to include the technology to benefit NHS patients.
Qure’s qXR software was procured via the NHS SBS Provision of AI, Imaging & Radiotherapy Equipment, Associated Products and Diagnostic Imaging Framework Agreement.
Emergency department doctors will review the findings generated by the software before deciding on any treatment, and senior radiologists will regularly check the reports to ensure accuracy.
The qXR AI solution will highlight critical cases, allowing doctors to focus on people who need the most urgent treatment.
Dr Das said: “It is not about replacing medical staff and we are very clear that the AI-generated report is guidance for our clinicians who will make the final decision on whether they agree with it or not, and will plan any treatment they deem necessary.
“But it has real potential to improve patient care and outcomes and to reduce delays in our emergency departments.
“Ongoing performance monitoring of all new AI technologies introduced into the NHS is key to success and adoption.”
Darren Stephens, senior vice president and commercial head for UK and Europe at Qure.ai, added: "This is a significant milestone for Qure.ai's solution to be procured through the NHS SBS Framework Agreement.
“We are excited to partner with East Kent Hospitals with the aim of powering the efficiency of radiology reporting of chest X-rays with very high accuracy.
“A layer of AI-enabled chest X-ray triaging can prompt precise identification of critical cases, resulting in optimised resources and enhanced patient experiences.”